Transport TEISEN MARU:
Tabular Record of Movement

© 2010-2011 Bob Hackett, Peter Cundall and Erich Muehlthaler

E 1916:
West Hartlepool, England. Laid down at Irvine’s Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co., Ltd. as a 5,019-ton passenger-cargo ship for the Johnston Line Ltd.

October 1917:
Launched and named THISTLEMORE.



Sold to Rickmers-Linie mbH (Riclmers Line), Hamburg. Renamed URSULA RICKMERS, port of registry is Hamburg.

Receives radio call sign DHYI.

1 November 1938:
Departs Hamburg.

18 November 1938:
Departs Port Said, Eqypt for the Far East.

September 1940 – August 1941:
Laid-up at Dairen, Manchuria.

28 May 1941:
While still laid-up at Dairen, URSULA RICKMERS is officially confiscated by the German Government and placed at disposal of the Kriegsmarine Naval Attaché at Tokyo, Vizeadmiral Paul Wennecker (former CO of Panzerschiff DEUTSCHLAND/LÜTZOW) and Deutscher Admiral Ostasien (German Admiral, East Asia) who time-charters the ship (retaining most of her German crew) to the Japanese Government´s wholly owned Teikoku Senpaku K.K. (Imperial Steamship Co.), Tokyo. The ship is operated by Mitsubishi Shoji K.K., Tokyo.

July 1941:
At Dairen (former Port Arthur), Manchuria.

6 August 1941:
Dairen. URSULA RICKMERS is officially handed over to Mitsubishi Shoji K.K., Tokyo.

21 August 1941:
Arrives at Shibaura, Tokyo. Renamed TEISEN MARU. Receives signal letters JWMQ and port of registry is now Tokyo. On her first charter journey, carries coal and lumber from Kushiro, Hokkaido to Nagoya.

November 1941:
Just before the outbreak of the Pacific War, TEISEN MARU completes a journey from Yokohama to Kushiro, Hokkaido.

10 December 1941:
Horikawa Kozo embarks on TEISEN MARU as a Supervising Captain.

25 August 1942:
TEISEN MARU is enroute from Yokohama to Hokkaido. At 0422, lookouts aboard Cdr Thomas B. Klarkring´s USS GUARDFISH (SS-217) sight a darkened southbound freighter two miles eastward. Klarkring reverses course to get ahead of the target for a submerged attack at dawn. The submarine must have been sighted by the target vessel because she alters course towards the shore in the darkness and apparently radios a warning of the submarine's position. At 0525, GUARDFISH submerges and heads shoreward. At 0554, the target is sighted at 6 miles on course 210T.

8 n miles NE of Ma-saki Lighthouse, Iwate Prefecture. At 0633, Cdr Klarkring fires a one degree spread of two torpedoes at 1400 yards. The second torpedo hits under the target's bridge, throwing up a large plume of spray, higher than the main deck, but no explosion is heard. The first torpedo broaches vertically out of the water about 10 feet off the target's bow. This torpedo makes several leaps, each a half-dozen feet in the air. The target slows and wheels to starboard.

At 0635, Cdr Klarkring fires another torpedo that passes either under or very close alongside the target. A loud explosion is heard. The target's propeller´s count decreases from 85 to 65 r.p.m. and she settles somewhat but does not appear to be sinking. Instead, she continues to open the range and heads towards the beach which in enveloped in mist. The ship is misidentified as of the LYONS MARU class. The attack has taken place 5 miles off shore, so Klarking decides to surface and chase this valuable target, but first he raises GUARDFISH's SD radar mast. The radar picks up four planes at 14 to 16 miles. When the range decreases to 10 miles, Klarking decides to remain at periscope depth.

At 0654, Klarking sights the first torpedo floating vertically without its warhead 400 yards off the starboard bow. GUARDFISH passes the torpedo close aboard. It is carefully observed through the periscope by both the Executive and Torpedo Officers. The air flask appears intact.

At 0718, five sets of high speed propellers are picked up by sound, all in the direction of the shore and all getting louder. By this time the target has disappeared in the haze and nothing can be seen to shoreward, so GUARDFISH goes to 120 feet and spends the next eight hours evading a patrol group.

E August 1942:
Asano Dockyard, Yokohama. TEISEN MARU undergoes repairs. At the same time, she receives a gun and a four- man Japanese gun crew. Besides the gunners, there are three other Japanese on board: Supervising Captain Horikawa, Radio Officer Okada Sadayoshi and Signalman Mori Takeo. The ship´s complement is composed of 63 Germans and Chinese.

12 September 1942:
Control of TEISEN MARU is transferred to Senpaku Uneikai (Shipping Control Authority) which continues entrustment of the ship to Mitsubishi Shoji K. K., Tokyo.

31 October 1942:
Supervising Captain Horikawa is relieved by Wada Natsujiro.

Until end of 1942:
Hauls coal between Hokkaido and Yokohama.

Early 1943:
Yokohama. Undergoes repairs for more than four months. Thereafter, hauls coal between Yokohama and Moji and between Osaka and Moji.

13 June 1943:
Departs Yokohama.

20 June 1943:
Arrives Dairen (former Port Arthur), Manchuria.

24 June 1943:
Departs Dairen.

28 June 1943:
Arrives Moji and departs later that day.

1 July 1943:
Arrives Nagoya.

7 July 1943:
Departs Nagoya.

8 July 1943:
Arrives at Osaka.

12 August 1943:
Departs Osaka.

17 August 1943:
Arrives at Dairen.

23 August 1943:
Departs Dairen.

27 August 1943:
Arrives at Moji and departs later that day.

28 August 1943:
Arrives at Kobe.

6 September 1943:
Departs Kobe.

7 September 1943:
Arrives at Moji.

8 September 1943:
Departs Moji.

12 September 1943:
Arrives at Dairen.

18 September 1943:
Departs Dairen.

22 September 1943:
Arrives at Osaka.

29 September 1943:
Departs Osaka.

30 September 1943:
Arrives Moji.

2 October 1943:
Departs Moji.

5 October 1943:
Arrives at Dairen.

10 October 1943:
Departs Dairen.

14 October 1943:
Arrives Moji and departs later that day.

17 October 1943:
Arrives at Nagoya.

20 October 1943:
Departs Nagoya.

21 October 1943:
Arrives at Yokohama

January 1944:
Sasebo. TEISEN MARU's armament is strengthened due to a planned voyage to the southern area: four Type 96 25mm AA mounts are installed on the bridge and two 25mm AA mounts on the poop deck. Later, a dozen German Kriegsmarine sailors are embarked as gun crew at Kobe.

27 January 1944:
At 1900, TEISEN MARU departs Kobe for Singapore without escort. She steams independently loaded with war supplies. Her complement is composed of six Japanese (Supervising Captain Wada, Radio Officer Okada, deck-hand Hiramatsu Iwao, deck-hand apprentice Morimoto Fujigoro, deck-hand apprentice Tsuji Kuraji and cook Zushi Sadayoshi), 27 German and 60 Chinese seamen. Enroute TEISEN MARU calls at Balikpapan, Borneo, Makassar, Celebes and Djakarta (Batavia), Java (Indonesia).

31 March 1944:
Safely arrives at Singapore, Malaya. Discharges war supplies and takes on board a full load of raw rubber and tin and embarks nine Japanese nationals.

29 April 1944:
Departs Singapore for Kobe independently and without escort carrying nine Japanese passengers and a full load of raw rubber bales, tin and other items.

3 May 1944:
Sulu Sea. At 0524, lookouts aboard Cdr (later Rear Admiral) Reuben T. Whitaker’s USS FLASHER (SS-249) sight smoke at about 25,000 to 30,000 yards. Whitaker begins to track this target that appears to be heading NE at 12.5 knots. At 1120, Whitaker identifies the target as an unescorted freighter of about 10,000 tons. At 1149, FLASHER fires four stern Mark 18 electric torpedoes. Two hit the target well forward, but their small warheads have little effect.

At 1154, Whitaker fires four forward Mark 14 steam torpedoes, but TEISEN MARU’s lookouts see their wakes and the ship evades all four. At 1159, Whitaker fires two forward Mark 14s at the target. One runs erratically, but the other hits near the stern and stops TEISEN MARU. FLASHER’s crew begins to reload forward.

At 1211, Whitaker fires one forward Mark 14 that hits and takes off about 50 feet of TEISEN MARU’s bow including her bandstand and gun crew. At 1218, Whitaker fires another torpedo that hits TEISEN MARU’s bow again. She develops a heavy list to starboard. All hands are ordered to abandon ship. TEISEN MARU begins to sink rapidly. At 1221, she sinks stern first at 12-54N, 114-07E. Four lifeboats carrying about 100 men are seen leaving the debris-filled area.

At 1401, FLASHER returns to the scene on the surface. Her crew looks through the debris to see if they can identify the name of the ship, but all they find is a sign that says “RAUCHEN VERBOTEN”. (No Smoking).

9 May 1944:
All four lifeboats with TEISEN MARU´s total complement of 93 (6 Japanese including the Captain, 27 Germans, 60 Chinese) land safely at various points on the shore of French Indochina. The next day, all hands are reunited at Qui Nhon.

Bob Hackett, Peter Cundall and Erich Muehlthaler

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